Friday, 3 January 2014

19 pocketmod RPGs - Harder Than Granite competition entries

The 2013 Harder Than Granite competition set a high bar. Complete an RPG in 24 hours, during November 2013, in pocketmod format and with no-numbers. What's more, being the greedy sort that I am, I wanted character sheets, front pages, indexes (if possible) and everything wrapped in a beautiful wrapper. The mind bending Heist Aces by Fred Bednarski won. Thank you to all those that took part.

I'm proud to list the entries with a lightweight review-ette of each. In alphabetical order.

A Flask full of Gasoline

A Flask full of Gasoline by Dyson Logos is a gritty, bare chested, manly game that me laugh over and over on each read through. It uses ingenious mechanics that mesh snugly with the theme of over-the-top Tarantino machismo. It includes booze too (and not the only game to do so), that washes flavour over the whole game. Jason "Chainsaw Aardvark" Kline and I had real trouble deciding between this and the winner Heist Aces (below).

Agents of Spectrum

Agents of Spectrum by the unstoppable Geoff Lamb is set in the super-secretive world of SPECTRUM. Spectrum are CIA/Men In Black organisation that keeps all that magic we know to exist hidden from civilians. As senior civil servants (who thought that job could be exciting?), you are in line to become "Control" but to do so, you need to make sure your Field Office is better than all the others. Uses Candy Land coloured cards with a simple mechanic of colour matching for actions.

Alpha Unix

Alpha Unix by Moriaty Games mashed the Matrix together with Groundhog day in a big bowl of delishousness. A succulent setting where numbers are not just shunned but will drop you deep in digital doo-doo. Computers use numbers, by writing them down you're only helping them. You're not HELPING THEM, are you? Alpha Unix is all setting and it's all good. Lovers of Paranoia will feel at home in Alpha Unix. Take or leave the mechanic, the setting is worth a look.

Artifacts and Ambitions

In Artifacts and Ambitions by gnapo, sentient artifacts aid humans using the awesome power of magic! As a player, you play both PUNY HUMAN with ambitions and a magical artifact. There is a lot of trading of powers and promises between the Artifacts and the PUNY HUMANS, who are ever-so selfish and grabby. Oral contracts fly about like tweets in a revolution with imagination running riot.

The Bodhisattva’s Smile

The Bodhisattva’s Smile by Michael Wenman (who live blogged the experience) is a novel story game that charts the pilgrimage of an NPC and the players jostle to be the one to aid the pilgrim with their sycophantic persuasion. It's a unique idea that delves into the soul and what it is to be human. Worth a couple of reads to understand what is required. Make sure you grab The Mandala of All Things first, which makes the game much easier to understand!

Daring Adventures

Daring Adventures by Kris Newton is a ram-packed supers game that eschews numbers in favour of cards and the cheeky use of a pot of tokens (sort of counting but not really - ish). Not only do you craft you own super hero but you also get to craft the villain too, giving this compact game an element of replay. Keep this gem in your GM bag for that supers pickup game you need.

Dwarfen Veterans

Don't be put off by the simple cover to the beguiling Dwarfen Veterans by Anastylos. It's a wonderful idea: Dwarfs sitting around a tavern table with tankards in hand recounting battle fought long ago. The better the description, the more visceral (and humorous) the more chance you have of winning. Use this idea in your fantasy game right now!. Might be especially fun if your group like to have a beer or two at the table and need a neat way to end a session while "four sheets to the wind"!

Heist Aces (Winner!)

Heist Aces by Fred Bednarski won the competition! It's a beautiful high tech heist game that has depth and complexity. There are no numbers in the document whatsoever, it leads you through the act of setting up and executing a Heist. It offers great replay value and I understand that Fred is looking to expand the concept (I certainly hope he does). It's also Fred's first design (although I found that out only after judging). Congratulations, Fred.

House of Unusual Size

The House of Unusual Size by Shae Davidson is a chunky, imaginative setting in a small package. The characters explore vaulted rooms, musty corridors and dank passages of a huge house Dickensian house. They take it turns to be a spotlight player while all the other players throw horror at them. It's a smashing idea that would belong in any campaign.

Keeton's Journey

Keeton's Journey by Andrew Hague follows the journey of Keeton, a wandering medicine man from ancient Japan. Inspired by Mushi-shi, it has a neat mechanic where it uses the spots on a old-fashioned D6. But wait! You said! Dice! Spots! Numbers! But no... Keeton's Journey uses the shape of the spots. The '4' is the box, for example. Very clever stuff. I've needed a system to run a bit of Kung-Fu Panda and this is it.

Keeton's School of Arcane Arts

Hogwart your face clean off in the magic-em-up-ery of Keeton's School of Arcane Arts by Alec Henry. Built around the ingenious idea of drawing your spells in the form of simple shapes on paper, handing those spells to the GM and then when you want to cast something you have to remember the shape. The GM then compares your pre-drawn spell with the one you've hurriedly handed over for accuracy. The less accurate your copy, the less beneficial the effect. Oh the fun you could have with this!

Make the King

The King is dead! Actually, not quite! But he will be soon. Make the King by Davide Pignedoli is a game where each player has a shot at becoming the next King and must convince the poor, dying monarch that they are the best choice. Mechanics take the form of comparing mugs of tokens and this game is a good diversion for players who like to get their claws out.

Pockets full of Adventure

Keeton has discovered universes in the pockets of his trousers! Stan Taylor's Pockets Full of Adventure allows you to explore those dimensions. Some are large, some are tiny but all are jam packed with things to find. Character creation is a single sentence and the mechanics revolve around flicking to a random page in a book. How brilliant is that?

Pocketful of Heroes

Geoff Lamb's (yes, again) Pocketful of Heroes is a supers game but I like more than just for that. The system is very neat, using a card deck with randomly dealt suits to match up with statistics and then using the same suits again for the actions. It has a superdude on the front and the adventure is a supers one but I think the game is a neat generic system that is well written, described and presented.


Prophecy by Anastylos plays upon the use of tarot cards to generate each character's personal story and token passing as a way of controlling the narrative. Your character is described by adjectives and the mechanics use a choose-to-lose mechanic that gives the player control. If another player doesn't like this idea, they must choose a fist. Some tokens are success tokens, some are fail tokens. When you run out of success tokens? Well, have a guess.


Quest-ions by Jonathan Lavellee is a cunning fantasy system that uses the pocketmod booklet itself in the mechanics. A player can choose a page from the booklet upon which there are action words which make up the choices for that round. Ingenious! The GM is rotated (not physically) and your character is defined by a combination of Body, Mind and Spirit and they are used to narrow down what types of actions you can do.

Star Punk

Star Punk by Emmett O'Brian makes you work hard. First, you have to create your larger than life characters. Then (if that wasn't enough), you have to create the world on which you live. After that (if you still have any energy at all), you have to battle the evil Keeton. Taking damage is all about taking new "conditions" (disadvantages) that can only be removed with good roleplay. It's light, it's got an adventure and it's Sci Fi.

Super Robot Go!

Climb inside a mech and live out your Pacific Rim fantasies in Super Robot Go! by Geoff Lamb. It's a super-lightweight giant robot game that focuses around the lovely Mech drawn in the rules. Mechanics are ably provided by Fudge dice, comparing the amount of positive and negative dice. It's got some neat mechanics and an adventure too. Scratch that giant robot itch I know you have. Just don't scratch it with a giant robot, that won't end well.

Witch Hunt

Grab your pitchforks and head off into the forest to hunt the witch. Why? Because she's evil. Why? Because she does bad stuff. Why? Because. Geoff Lamb's game puts you in the shoes of ordinary folk (they won't mind) and see you heading of in narrative to hunt evil. Why? ARE YOUR FOUR YEARS OLD?! Candy Land card decks control the theme of the narrative, GM sets the scene and the players riff off each other.

Are you in this list and have a blog that I didn't link? Argh! My apologies. Please get in touch in any of the myriad of ways open to you.

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